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Bargain Horses – Are They Really – by Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

Many years ago, Bob bought a horse that no one else seemed to want. They called him “yesterday’s goods”, too hot to handle, too small and not very athletic. Translation; all used up at the very old age of 5 years. He only traveled at two gaits, walk and gallop, was only 14.3 hands and didn’t want to pick up the left lead. From Bob’s point of view, these were mostly positives. Five years old is a great age, movement is essential for learning, short horses are easy to mount on the trail and leads are usually a two or three day fix on a sound horse.
It turned out he’d found the proverbial diamond in the rough. He says, “He was one of the best horses I have ever had. I kept him for almost ten years before selling him to my best friend when my young horses were consuming all my time.” This sounds like a great story, but it is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. There is always a reason why a horse is for sale. It could just be that someone goes off to school or a breeder needs to sell stock to survive, etc., but often it’s for negative reasons. Perhaps the horse is dangerous, i.e. it rears, it bucks, it bolts, it won’t move, it won’t stop, it’s afraid of everything. You can usually expect some or all of the above in the so called “bargain horse”. The initial purchase price is often very low or even free (adoption horses come to mind) but the ultimate price you pay in order to bring that horse along may not result in such a bargain after all. Remember the old saying, “˜If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is’.
It’s not just the training time and costs that he’s referring to. When horses have acquired and have practiced bad habits or have been taught to fear or mistrust humans, they are not “cured” overnight. This takes time and patience, not only from the trainer, but from the owner as well. A horse with any or all of these problems could cost you several months and several thousand dollars to “fix”. In the meantime, you may be a risk of injury when handling or riding these horses. Even if you don’t get hurt, but are constantly in fear of being hurt, you are obviously not enjoying such a horse. Regardless of what we wish to actually do with our horses, we presume that we would all like to enjoy them.
So just a few words of advice to consider when buying your next mount:
1. Always see the horse in person, don’t buy on a video alone.
2. Watch the owner or seller ride the horse before you do. This way you should get to see the horse perform at its current “best” level.
3. If the seller or owner refuses to ride the horse, this should send you a warning. Only ride this horse if your insurance premium is fully paid.
4. If you’re not experienced with horses, bring your favorite trainer along to get their assessment of the horse. Don’t use one of the barn mavens who offer their “expert” advice for free. (Remember free advice is only worth what you paid for it)
5. Have a vet check for soundness at least with a flex test if you don’t know the horse or the seller. If they fail the flex test, move on. If they pass, but your vet suggests x-rays or further testing and you like the horse, do what he or she suggests; it could save you a lot of money later.

If you’re looking for bargains, shop at Wal-Mart. As far as we know horses aren’t sold there yet, so be cautious when presented with a so-called bargain price horses. Spending a few dollars more for the horse that you can start riding and enjoying immediately, one that is sound, willing, well trained and just fun to be around is the true bargain. If you find yourself already in the position of having acquired a horse with some problems, your situation is certainly not hopeless. Just realize that you’ll need to find a trainer that you’re comfortable with and be prepared to spend the money, time and effort required to teach your horse properly.

©Two as One, LLC 8/07

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